JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 15, 2013) – Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) finished with a match-high 17 kills (.556 attack percentage) and eight blocks, while Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) collected her 11th consecutive double-double (13 kills, 10 digs), and the ETSU volleyball team earned a share of the Atlantic Sun regular season championship after sweeping past North Florida (25-20, 25-22, 25-18) Friday night inside Brooks Gym.
After rallying past the Ospreys in the five sets last month in The River City, the Blue and Gold used a total team effort to dispose of UNF (10-19, 6-11), setting up a critical match against Jacksonville on Saturday at 3 p.m. inside Brooks Gym.
A lot will be at stake when the Bucs and Dolphins square off, but the most important item will be the A-Sun regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
Jacksonville (26-3, 15-2) is the only team to defeat ETSU in conference play this season, but since that setback on Oct. 18, the Bucs have rattled off nine consecutive victories as well as extending their home win streak to 15 straight after the three-set win over UNF on Friday.
Following its win over the Ospreys, ETSU improved to 22-7, 16-1 in A-Sun, marking the most conference wins for the Bucs in program history. By at least claiming a share of the conference crown, ETSU captured its first regular season championship since 2006 when the Blue and Gold went 9-0 in A-Sun play. In addition, this marks the sixth title in Buccaneer history.
Prior to the match, Devine was honored in a pregame “Senior Night” ceremony, while teammate Eryn Samuels (Tampa, Fla.) sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
After all the pregame festivities, the Blue and Gold made sure to take care of business.
The Ospreys had no answer for Hardy and sophomore Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) in the opening set as they combined to hit a blistering .611 (13-2-18) en route to guiding ETSU to a 25-20 victory. Play was tight midway through the frame as the teams combined for five ties and three lead changes, but with play knotted at 11, the Bucs took the lead for good when Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) found Hardy for one of her nine kills in the stanza, making it a 12-11 contest. From there, Hardy registered five more kills down the stretch run as ETSU built a five-point cushion and cruised to the victory. Along with her nine kills, Hardy also added three blocks, while Wiley totaled four kills on six attempts.
Despite trailing by as many as six points in the second set, the Blue and Gold showed their grit and determination to rally back for a 25-22 win. The Ospreys jumped out to a 10-4 lead and still lead by six when an attack error by Hardy pushed the score to 13-7. However, consistent serving from sophomore Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) shifted the momentum as she served the Bucs to seven straight points, giving ETSU its first lead of the set, 15-13. UNF battled back to pull even four more times, but with the score tied at 22, the Bucs won the final three points to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Devine fueled the charge offensively in the stanza as she hit .429 (4-1-7), while she and freshman Renzey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) accounted for 12 of ETSU’s 21 digs. Both totaled six digs each. Meanwhile, Hardy added five more kills in the second at hit .364 (5-1-11).
In the third set, neither team gained any breathing room until sophomore Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.) came off the bench to ignite a match-ending 7-0 spark, lifting the Bucs to a 25-18 win. Prior to ETSU’s surge, neither team led by more than two points and totaled 10 ties and five lead changes. But with the score knotted at 18, freshman Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) found Schafer for one of her three kills in the set to put the Blue and Gold ahead for good. Schafer was a perfect 3-for-3 in her swings during the third set, while also adding a block assist to give ETSU a 16-14 advantage. As a team, the Bucs hit .382 (16-3-34) in the final frame, while Devine (7-0-13), Hardy (3-0-4) and Schafer (3-0-3) combined for a .650 attack percentage.
For the match, ETSU hit .232 (46-20-112) and held UNF to a .075 (29-21-106) clip, while out-blocking the Ospreys, 11-8. The Bucs were also plus-6 in digs, 44-38, as Renzey Rice added 11 and she has now totaled 25 in her last two contests. Meanwhile, following her 72nd career double-double, Devine moved past Jennifer Manchester for fourth all-time on the ETSU digs list with 1,449.
Not only is Saturday a showdown for the A-Sun championship, but it’s also “Fan Appreciation Day.” Each fan who enters the gate will receive a raffle ticket and six lucky fans will have the opportunity to win between $25-100 cash.
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For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.